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Fishermen, First Nation still oppose pipe plan

Mike Noel, 37, and his father Wayne, 70, will be one of many fishermen taking part a #NoPipe Land and Sea Rally July 6 in Pictou, N.S. The Noels say fishermen don’t trust that their fishery won’t be harmed by Northern Pulp’s plans to pump effluent into the Northumberland Strait. In their opinion, no guarantees mean no pipe.
Mike Noel, 37, and his father Wayne, 70, were one of many fishermen taking part a #NoPipe Land and Sea Rally that was hosted July 6 in Pictou, N.S. The associations representing fishermen from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and the Pictou Landing First Nation still adamantly oppose the mill’s plan. - Sueann Musick

Pictou Landing couple have spotted six effluent leaks over 33 years

“It looked like a small animal jumping up and down from a distance,” said Bill Palmer.

“But of course when we got closer we saw it was effluent coming out of the pipe.”

For Palmer and his wife, who walk their 32 hectares in Pictou Landing before breakfast every morning, rain or shine, the bubbling effluent pipe was not an unusual site.

“Six times in 33 years,” said Palmer of how many times he’s found the pipe broken.

“They’re quite efficient. I call them every time as soon as we get home and they’re over here within 15 or 20 minutes.”

When he called Northern Pulp on Sunday morning it was no different. Flow to the pipe was shutdown from the mill that was already idled for a regular maintenance shutdown.

Suction trucks ran to the site all day Sunday and Monday to clean up the spill and take it to Northern Pulp’s effluent treatment site at nearby Boat Harbour – where it was supposed to arrive via pipeline.

“It was more of a partial leak,” said Kathy Cloutier, spokeswoman for the mill’s parent company Paper Excellence, of how long the pipe was spewing untreated effluent before the Palmers discovered it.

“It was probably a matter hours (that it was leaking) … We have someone walk it every day.”

That “someone” appears to be Palmer and his wife.

“You very rarely see anyone from the mill walking it,” said Palmer.

“But we’re out there every day. There was a chap that was very conscientious, walked it maybe once a week. But he’s been gone must be 20 years now.”

Whatever the size of the leak or who found it, it couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Because on Monday morning Northern Pulp presented their latest proposed route to stakeholders for where the pipe from their new effluent treatment facility will drain into the Northumberland Strait.

The associations representing fishermen from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and the Pictou Landing First Nation already adamantly opposed the mill’s first plan to pipe effluent from a taxpayer-subsidized new facility being built on Abercrombie Point out under Pictou Harbour to diffuse into the Strait.

The plan they heard on Monday morning, as Sunday’s spill dominated the headlines, was to pipe effluent alongside the causeway running toward Pictou and continue adjacent to the road running to the Caribou-Wood Islands Ferry and then out into the Northumberland Strait.

“This way the effluent in the pipe is already treated,” Cloutier told The Chronicle Herald.

But neither the fishermen nor the council members of Pictou Landing First Nation heard anything on Monday morning that move them to support the project.

In fact, the two sides appear farther apart than ever as the legislated 2020 deadline nears for the closure of Northern Pulp’s existing treatment facility at Boat Harbour.

By the time Boat Harbour closes, a new treatment facility needs to be operating or the mill shuts down.

And if the mill shuts down so does much of the forestry industry in northern Nova Scotia.

“No one here said they want the mill to shut,” said Lismore fisherman Dennis McGee after the meeting.

“But I will say to that – why should I give up my livelihood for the sake of theirs? Why should thousands of fishermen give up their livelihoods for the sake of this mill.”

The fisheries representatives at the meeting, who brought a marine biologist with them to hear the presentation, said they weren’t able to get details from Northern Pulp of what would be in the 47 million litres of effluent coming daily out of the pipe.

They also accused Northern Pulp of attempting to play divide and conquer with their latest proposal by offering to move the outlet farther from the Pictou Landing First Nation – which had pushed for decades to have the old one cleaned up behind their community only to have the mill propose to replace it with one that dumps treated effluent off their shore.

“They told me it gets it out of your front yard,” said Chief Andrea Paul of a recent talk she had with mill staff.

“But it’s still going into the Strait so it doesn’t change our position. We won’t be divided.”

Meanwhile attempts by the coalition of fishermens groups to get a meeting with provincial government ministers have failed.

“The ministers of environment, finance, transportation and infrastructure renewal, fisheries – they told us they don’t want to talk to us,” said McGee.

While the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal has budgeted $6,001,238.13 to design the Northern Pulp’s facility, the Department of Environment will be conducting the environmental assessment on it.

The province has thus far refused to acknowledge a conflict of interest and refer it to the federal regulator – one of the coalition’s demands.

Bruce Nunn, spokesman for the Department of Environment, said Monday that it’s not the province’s responsibility to refer an assessment to the federal regulator.

Leaving Monday’s meeting mill manager Bruce Chapman and his staff declined to answer The Chronicle Herald’s questions, refering them to Cloutier.

“Today was about learning from key stakeholders – to re-engage with them and have inclusion,” said Cloutier.

But at the end of the day, she said the mill will need to discharge its treated effluent somewhere.

Over the coming weeks Northern Pulp will register its planned treatment facility for an environmental assessment.

Meanwhile on Monday afternoon mill staff were on their easement across the Palmer’s property with an excavator repairing the damaged pipe and pumping up the effluent.

“What spill, there wasn’t a spill here,” said a mill employee who didn’t identify himself but asked The Chronicle Herald to leave.

Asked what had happened if there wasn’t a spill, he replied “I’m not at liberty to say.”

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